Thursday, July 17, 2014

Every Day After, by Laura Golden

It's the Depression, and Lizzie Hawkins's father has taught her to always be tough and never accept charity. The thing is, Lizzie's father wasn't so tough himself: After losing his job, he's taken off and abandoned his family. Her father's abandonment has in turn caused her mother's, only in a different form. Lizzie's mother is now completely catatonic.

Lizzie feeds the two of them by fishing and tending the vegetable garden. She puts her mom to bed at night and gets her up in the morning. She does the laundry (which procedure is described in detail) and fixes her mom cups of tea. She has always been a top student (another demand of her father's). But now her heavy responsibilities mean her grades are slipping, to the delight of her nemesis, a thoroughly mean girl named Erin Sawyer whose family has recently moved to Alabama from Georgia. Erin wants to be top dog above all else, and, among other unreasonable demands, continually harangues Lizzie to pull out of an essay contest they have both entered.

Lizzie is not completely likable, and that might be a stumbling block for some readers. Specifically, she is quite self-centered, and when her friend Ben confronts her about it, we root for him. But not only does the author keep many readers (judging by the love this book has gotten) rooting for Lizzie in spite of her rather blatant faults, but she manages, in first-person narration, to convey that Lizzie is a somewhat unreliable narrator. The characterization, setting, and writing itself are nicely done.

We keep hearing that the Depression era has been overdone in historical fiction, yet here it is again. I would probably read any number of Depression-era novels, and apparently I have lots of company. Minor quibbles: This is yet another mother/child role-reversal story, and I'm honestly full-up on those. Erin is allowed to be much brattier in front of adults than I believe a child of that era could have gotten away with. And I just didn't buy the name Erin. For an obviously Irish character that might have been okay, but Erin was a popular name in the 1970s and '80s, not in 1917, the approximate year of the MC's birth. But as I said, minor quibbles. This is highly recommended.

11 comments:

Vijaya said...

There are some eras I never get tired of. The Depression is one of them. Just to get a glimpse into how people survive such desperate times gives me hope for the future.

I always appreciate your book reviews Marcia.

Andrea Mack said...

This sounds interesting. I am always drawn to stories about hardship. Thanks for an excellent review!

Faith E. Hough said...

I loved how the character was drawn in this one. I don't know if I'm daring enough to create a character with so far to go, but it worked here!

Marcia said...

Vijaya -- I could keep reading them too. I think it's partly that soon there'll be nobody left who remembers it, and we need to not forget.

Andrea -- Maybe we need to see characters surviving hardship to help us cope with our fears of it.

Faith -- Oof. If I came up with anybody half this selfish, I could just hear my crit partners. :) I'm sure there are readers for whom it didn't work.

Kelly Hashway said...

I adore this cover.

cleemckenzie said...

Any unattractive, off-putting character interests me immediately.

Marcia said...

Kelly -- I like it, too.

Lee -- Like Gilly Hopkins? :) I never liked them. I think it's because I was deeply offended that they were getting away with stuff I never dared pull.

janet smart said...

Sounds like an interesting book. I like reading about the depression era, too. I know once I read the beginnings of a story I was writing and one of my critique partners, said she don't particularly like my main character. I've since tried to make her more likable :o)

Marcia said...

Janet -- I've done the same thing. I like as few reasons as possible for people to say no to the book, you know?

Medeia Sharif said...

I find this era to be very interesting. Sometimes I like the secondary characters more than the main one, but if the story moves along well I don't mind.

Marcia said...

Medeia -- I think likable secondary characters are a good idea if the MC isn't so likable.